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Sound change and alternation

A synalepha or synaloepha /ˌsɪnəˈlfə/[1] is the merging of two syllables into one, especially when it causes two words to be pronounced as one.

The original meaning in Ancient Greek is more general than modern usage and includes coalescence of vowels within a word. Similarly, synalepha most often refers to elision (as in English contraction), but it can also refer to coalescence by other metaplasms: synizesis, synaeresis or crasis.[2]


Spanish and Italian use synalepha very frequently in poetry. As for instance in this hendecasyllable (11-syllable line) by Garcilaso de la Vega:

  • Los cabellos que al oro oscurecían.
  • "The hair that endarkened the gold"

The words que and al form one syllable when counting them because of the synalepha. The same thing happens with -ro and os-, so that the line has eleven syllables (syllable boundaries shown by a period):


See also


  1. Greek συναλοιφή (or συναλιφή), from συναλείφω: συν- "together" and ἀλείφω "I anoint", "smear". Alternation between οι, ει, and ι in verb root is ablaut.
  2. W. Sidney Allen, Vox Graeca, chart of "Types of vowel-junction", p. 98.